Yannick Bolasie has opened up about the nightmare of having to watch Ronald Koeman’s Everton revolution from the sidelines after his horror knee injury.
Last summer’s £20million buy was KO’d for a year in December – just 14 league games into his Goodison Park career.
Wideman Bolasie faces another six months of rehab and revealed he was so frustrated that he could not bring himself to watch live football until the final home game of the season.
And, while he recuperates, Koeman has been pressing on with his refit – funded by billionaire owner Farhad Moshiri. Keeper Jordan Pickford has been signed for £30m from Sunderland and Ajax skipper Davy Klaassen has joined for £24m to bolster the midfield.
Striker Romelu Lukaku could leave for up to — or even more than — £80m, with all of the fee set to be reinvested in the squad. And midfielder Ross Barkley also looks to be on his way out.
Everton finished seventh last term to qualify for the Europa League, and have ambitions to challenge for the Champions League. They also plan to move to a new 50,000-seater stadium.
Bolasie is desperate to get back to prove that he deserves to be part of the Toffees’ brave new world.
He said: “If I was playing this season, I could help the team push for the top six really hard. The Everton fans have seen what I can do at Crystal Palace – but not what I can do for them. When I came to Everton, I wanted to help the team get into Europe. They have done it without me, but I know what I can bring to the table and it is something different.”
Dad-of-two Bolasie’s tight-knit family have been keeping his spirits up during his injury, which required two knee operations to fix a torn meniscus and cruciate ligament.
He has never played in Europe before and is eagerly anticipating Everton’s return to UEFA competition. He also has a potential World Cup at the end of the season to look forward to, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo currently top of their qualifying group.
His parents are from there, but Lyon-born Bolasie had the chance to represent France, England or the DR Congo – before making his international debut for the Congo side in a 2014 World Cup qualification 0–0 draw with Libya
His new dreams are a far cry from his days grafting his way up the non-league scene with Hillingdon, before going to Floriana, in the Maltese Premier League, then Plymouth, Bristol City and Palace.
He said: “I’ve always loved playing. I didn’t get paid at Hillingdon, but every time I scored, they gave me a burger!”
Bolasie repaid his old club Hillingdon in January by lending his support when they were struggling financially. Now, his priority is paying back Everton and their fans after penning a five-year deal and starting the season promisingly with a goal and four assists in his first 14 league appearances.
“That is what I am looking forward to. Even when I had the four assists, I didn’t feel like the explosive Yan that I was at Crystal Palace. But I felt that would come with games and knowing my team-mates after only joining midway in August. When I get that, I know I am going to cause some real damage because, at Everton, I get the chance to be one-on-one a lot.”
Bolasie, 28, limped out of the 1-1 draw with Manchester United after colliding with striker Anthony Martial. And he is impatiently counting down the days until his return after spending much of his summer rehabilitating – at his own expense – under personal physio Rayan Wilson, of Back2Action, in Bristol.
He told Mirror Sport how he hopes the injury will make him a better player.
“Getting back in December would be the best Christmas present,” he said. “A player like me always wants to be on the pitch.
“When I looked at the videos of the injury – before I got the results – you think it is only something small. But, for some reason, I had a feeling this injury was going to be long-term. I’ve had two operations, but that was the plan.
“Strangely, I think that having this injury will give me the composure that I have been looking for. I know that will take my game to another level. I am going to be subconsciously more cautious with any sharp movements, but that should improve my game massively.
“My old managers – Alan Pardew and Tony Pulis – always felt I would gain more composure with age. Now I have had this injury, I think it will come, but I don’t think I will lose my pace or my sprinting – and I feel strong already.”